Today Vice President Joseph Biden and other U.S. officials will meet with leaders of Caribbean states in Washington D.C. to discuss new energy initiatives and steer countries away from Venezuela’s influence.
The White House reported the event as an “energy round-table”discussing “a cleaner and more sustainable energy future in the Caribbean through improved energy governance, greater access to finance and donor coordination.” There is no mention of Venezuela, yet the Atlantic Council, a sponsor of the event, explicitly mentions Venezuela as the reason for the meeting.
The Atlantic Council is a think-tank funded by different international companies like Shell Oil and governmental organization like the North Atlantic Trade Organization. In addition, some of its board members and directors include former U.S. officials and current leaders of major firms. It primarily works in securing the interests of NATO.
With individuals like International Monetary Fund director Christine Laguarde and World Bank President Jim Kim appearing, the event will take advantage of low oil prices hurting Venezuela at the current moment. Associated Press journalist Ben Fox wrote, even though Venezuela would not be brought up, “it will be on everyone’s minds.”
Currently, Venezuela provides oil to Caribbean countries through Petrocaribe, which began in 2005 under former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Countries in Petrocaribe can defer payments on oil or trade other commodities for oil for example.
However, due to the drop in oil prices, Venezuelan oil exports are declining. Despite assurances by President Nicolas Maduro the alliance would continue, a decline in state revenue worries Petrocaribe members. Thus, U.S. officials are hoping to persuade nations with their own fossil fuels. Indeed, the Atlantic Council released a report last summer titled “Uncertain Energy: The Caribbean’s Gamble with Venezuela” promoting such views:
Governments should leverage existing market trends and embrace gas as a near-term bridge fuel to promote energy security and facilitate investment in regional interconnection infrastructure.
The report admits Petrocaribe is a Venezuelan success in bolstering ties with Caribbean nations, yet believes it is possible in increasing the role of the U.S. in the Caribbean. In fact, the authors argue, despite the organization set to continue under Venezuelan leadership, the U.S. must take advantages of opportunities:
If the United States stands by and lets these nations risk and potentially endure the fiscal shock, it will simply validate the perception that US policy is more anti-Venezuelan than pro-Caribbean. Therefore, the region needs a US-led multilateral response to set it on a new energy path. By providing assistance in conceiving, financing, and even supplying new energy infrastructure, the
United States and IFIs can lay the groundwork for a more integrated Caribbean and Central America.
Interestingly, David Goldwyn, one of the authors of the report, is noted as “the US Department of State’s special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs from 2009 to 2011, reporting directly to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.” Goldwyn is noted in the AP story as an organizer for the meeting where other State Department officials will be at.
Goldwyn additionally worked on behalf of dictatorships throughout the world to promote the agenda of oil companies, which is something he declines to highlight. In 2012, he wrote an op-ed for The New York Times where he said a U.S. energy boom could “reduce Caribbean dependence” from other oil sources. In addition to his work at the Atlantic Council, he leads Goldwyn Global Strategies, a firm advising oil and natural gas companies along with “many other hats” as investigative journalist Steve Horn notes.
Maduro told Venezuelans in an address $100 per barrel would not return and “God [would] provide.” Oil provides 95 percent of country’s export revenues and low oil prices only fuel the prospects of a default. After failing to persuade other OPEC members to reduce oil production to increase gas prices, Venezuela faces a grim future with recessions and instability.
Indeed, this may explain why Biden will be appearing today with other leaders of Caribbean states. The U.S. will continue to produce more oil and this helps American foreign policy in the Central American region as Goldwyn points out in his NYT op-ed:
The U.S. and North American oil and gas booms are phenomenal economic windfalls. But security always trumps economics in U.S. foreign policy. The country’s commitment to global security and its vulnerability to global oil prices will keep Washington engaged for the foreseeable future.
What Caribbean leaders will leave with is anyone’s guess as the meeting, but is guaranteed U.S. officials will persuade them in order to preserve “global security.”